Give Winder city officials credit: Between their Livable Cities Initiative and Streetscape projects, they have outlined an ambitious plan to reshape the entire community.
While much of what is being discussed appears to be worthy projects, there are some caveats.
Foremost among those is the cost. To do all that officials would like to do will take millions of dollars, both in public dollars and in private investments. In the current economic environment, that kind of spending will be difficult to come by.
A second consideration is that there are so many aspects to the city’s planning, some of the key concerns could get lost in the process. For most citizens, traffic is the critical problem in the downtown area. All the revitalization won’t mean very much until the transportation problems are resolved. When setting priorities, the traffic problems have to be at the top of the list or the rest of the projects will be moot.
City officials should also be cautious about recommendations from consultants that purport to make the city into a tourist destination. Although Winder has a tourist draw in nearby Ft. Yargo, that does not automatically translate into foot traffic in town. Every town in the state would like to become a “tourist destination,” as evidenced by dozens of recommendations from consultants. But the reality is, very few communities have the capacity to become strong tourist sites.
Finally, the real key to all of this will be the support of private investors who are willing to risk their own money into revitalization projects. These efforts will not work just because local governments want them to; they will work only if private investors are willing to sink their money into new development. And investors will only do that if they believe they have tenants willing to pay for retail and commercial space.
Winder’s plans are ambitious and worthy of further discussion. But there are no quick fixes. Whatever is done will probably take many years to accomplish.